Web conferencing technology is a convenient cost-effective way to provide global access to critical information, without meeting face-to-face. It enables distance learning without the expense, time, and hassle of travel, plus the content may be recorded, archived, and re-used. Yet, despite those advantages, technology can never replace the 'human spirit.' Webinar participants around the world consistently report they want to feel a personal connection with the presenter and be engaged in the content, despite the remote virtual environment. According to a recent survey, the top three complaints of webinar attendees are:
a) A boring presenter
b) Lack of audience engagement
c) Content that did not address listeners' needs/expectations
Try the following tips to ensure your 'human spirit' prevails over the technology, and effectively connects with your next online audience:
1. Build in time for audience interaction. Allow at least one third of the allotted time for audience participation, discussion, and Q&A. For a one-hour webinar, that would be 20 minutes. This leaves 40 minutes of presentation time for you. By interacting frequently and soliciting feedback throughout, you keep your listeners engaged and ensure your content is meaningful to them.
2. Reduce the number of slides. A great way to build in audience interaction while managing time and content is to follow the two-minute-per-slide guideline. Using the example above, estimate two minutes per slide for 40 minutes. This means you would present a maximum of 20 slides for a one-hour webinar. Fewer slides equals more audience interaction.
3. Rehearse. Familiarize yourself with the webinar technology and tools you'll be using. Conduct a 'trial run' to resolve kinks or delays; practice aloud while clicking through your slides; and invite colleagues to listen and provide feedback. On the day of the webinar, login thirty minutes early to ensure proper technical setup and a smooth start. "Rehearsal is nine-tenths of success," says Ralph Waldo Emerson.
4. Convey vocal enthusiasm! When the audience can't see you, your voice carries up to 85% of your message impact. If possible, stand up to present. This upright posture aligns your body for better vocalization, adds energy to your delivery style, and helps avoid a tone that's too casual or dull. Smile! Voice tone mirrors body language--if you look and act enthused, the audience will hear it in your voice.
5. Use a series of looping slides as attendees arrive. Include the title of the webinar; when it will begin; your photo, name and title; relevant inspirational quotes and photos; interesting industry facts; the conference dial-in number; the technical assistance phone number; quiz questions; and what the audience is going to learn or gain. Be creative, have fun, and they'll be engaged from the get-go!
6. Personally welcome attendees. Call out participant's names and welcome them as soon as they arrive. "I see John Doe has just dialed in. Hi John, this is Darlene. Welcome to the webinar and thanks for joining us. Where are you dialing in from today?..." If your audience size is less than 20 people, you may be able to personally greet everyone. If larger, speak to as many attendees as possible--your warmth and hospitality will be noticed and appreciated by all.
7. Grab attention with a captivating slide, and then introduce yourself. When you begin your presentation, open with a 'grabber slide' and a statement of impact. For example, use a startling statistic, surprising fact, intriguing photo, thought-provoking question, relevant quotation, or current event. Then introduce yourself, announce the objective of the webinar, and tell the audience what they will gain as a result of attending.
8. Involve the audience once every 3-5 minutes. One of the biggest webinar mistakes is to 'push' your information at your audience using a one-way lecture approach. Instead, 'pull' knowledge, questions, and responses from your audience. This creates a dynamic, interactive, even fun learning environment. Get them involved by using a combination of these powerful web conferencing tools: Chat; Threaded Q&A; Custom Polls and Surveys; Break-out sessions; Integrated Testing; Webcam; Whiteboards; Screen-share; Play-A-Video; Annotation and Drawing; and Social Media Integration.
9. Use "build" slides for visual stimulation and interest. Imagine you have a slide, which depicts a four-step process, complete with graphics, icons, and arrows for each step. Avoid displaying the entire visual all at once. It's overwhelming for the eye and confusing for the mind. Instead, reveal and explain Step 1 with associated images. Then reveal and explain Step 2, and so on. Ideally, the virtual presenter changes a visual element every 30 seconds.
10. Create an emotional connection. Support your key points with vivid relevant stories, photos, examples, and experiences. For example, think of a time when you experienced something that is related to your topic, with which the audience would resonate. Create a "theater of the mind" moment by using memorable characters, such as your first boss, an angry customer, or inspiring teacher. What trouble or adversity did you face? How did you overcome it? What's the lesson or moral of the story that helps the audience?
11. Present a compelling close. First, summarize your main points on a single slide. Invite additional Q&A and final discussion points (but don't end on Q&A). Second, if applicable, show a slide that confirms next steps or your call-to-action, telling the audience what you want them to do in response to your message. If appropriate, include your contact information and how you'll be following up with them. Third and finally, say last what you want them to remember most. Make sure you close with a powerful impact statement, supported by a visually captivating slide that inspires your audience and makes them glad they attended.
12. Follow-up with finesse. Within 24 hours, be sure to send a follow-up email to participants thanking them for their attendance and participation. Include instructions on how to access the webinar recording and related materials. Fast follow-up shows you're a pro, provides a personal touch, and motivates your audience to remember you and your message.
I would be delighted to conduct a tailored one-hour coaching webinar for you and your team on "Delivering Winning Webinars." Please feel free to contact me directly for scheduling!
If you would like to a learn more about effective presentation skills, please read my book, Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (available in hard cover, audio, and Kindle).